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Highly oneiric Revolutionary Mexico Swift jumps from conciousness to conciousness, yet with the purpose of generating a coherent narrative The language is spritely, sullen, erotic by turns The old gringo, American journalist and author Ambrose Bierce, is a bitter man come to Mexico seeking death at the hands of the Revolution He meets the younger rebel General Tomas Arroyo whose innate machismo turns his relationship with the old gringo into a Game of Manhood A game only the general seems Highly oneiric Revolutionary Mexico Swift jumps from conciousness to conciousness, yet with the purpose of generating a coherent narrative The language is spritely, sullen, erotic by turns The old gringo, American journalist and author Ambrose Bierce, is a bitter man come to Mexico seeking death at the hands of the Revolution He meets the younger rebel General Tomas Arroyo whose innate machismo turns his relationship with the old gringo into a Game of Manhood A game only the general seems to be interested in playing The old gringo fearlessly marches straight into the most dangerous faceoffs with the Federales He seems invulnerable, god like The bullets don t so much as graze him General Arroyo s rebels marvel at him but the General resents the gringo for stealing his thunder In a comandeered train the general, his army, and the gringo cross the desert for a day and a night to the famous Miranda Hacienda It was here that Arroyo was fathered by Se or Miranda It was here Arroyo grew up and came to know intimately his nation s aristocracy It is in the destruction of the hacienda that the general seems to want to make a grand statement On arrival he and the old gringo find the white woman the gringa arrived only hours earlier from the U.S to teach English to the Miranda children, long since flown the coop Her name is Harriet Winslow She positively screams uptight white anglo saxon protestant, and the destruction of personal property is incomprehensible to her She discounts the long history of class oppression in Mexico in a trice Somehow she feels laughably even in the absence of the departed Mirandas, that she is responsible not only for stopping the destruction of the hacienda, but also for seeing to its restoration She sets the peons to whitewashing the place Yet like certain characters in Anita Brookner s oeuvre, she knows she s missed much of life in her 31 years She becomes Arroyo s lover One feels she could use the workout The old gringo sees her submission to Arroyo only in terms of the General s machismo He does not for a minute imagine the attraction this man of action might hold for Harriet The sex is electric As I ve said elsewhere, I m no fan of sex in literature It s almost always badly done, but not here Here the sex is integral, it works to push the story forward whereas, usually, all the action of the fiction must stop for nookie time It s almost too long, the sex Fuentes pushes it about ten pages too far But one can see why It s working so well The novel s onieric bent seamlessly blends backstory, dialogue, both thought and spoken, hopes and dreams, you name it The prose is consistently dazzling You must read it This is not a bad book That being said, after reading Fuentes s Crystal Frontier and being powerfully moved, The Old Gringo fell a bit short I was excited to read this modern classic, especially as it was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, an author whose life and work I find compelling While the hypothetical circumstances and characters Fuentes creates are believable, and there is some great symbolism here particularly his comparison of the United States and Mexico This is not a bad book That being said, after reading Fuentes s Crystal Frontier and being powerfully moved, The Old Gringo fell a bit short I was excited to read this modern classic, especially as it was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce, an author whose life and work I find compelling While the hypothetical circumstances and characters Fuentes creates are believable, and there is some great symbolism here particularly his comparison of the United States and Mexico to the opposing emotional forces within the individual , I found there was an unnecessary banal tone to a number of passages I am surprised to find myself offering this criticism, as normally offensive language, violence, etc are not of themselves problematic for me Perhaps my issue was that these particular passages felt a bit forced.The largest problem I had was that Fuentes seemed to concentrate muchon several other characters than the old gringo himself the character that led me to read the story in the first place In fact, the last third or so of the book doesn t deal with him at all I expected someinsight into his character, his rationale, and his identity as a writer On the whole, it felt anti climactic Such a simple plot the old man goes to Mexico to die in the Revolution All he wants is a dignified death But of course, there is a woman involved, and a Mexican general This is a short book but it may as well have been War and Peace based on how long it took me to read it, maybe because it s writtenlike poetry than prose, forcing me to slow down, re read, savor the language and question its meaning There arethemes here than I can probably even recognize Death, life, love, natio Such a simple plot the old man goes to Mexico to die in the Revolution All he wants is a dignified death But of course, there is a woman involved, and a Mexican general This is a short book but it may as well have been War and Peace based on how long it took me to read it, maybe because it s writtenlike poetry than prose, forcing me to slow down, re read, savor the language and question its meaning There arethemes here than I can probably even recognize Death, life, love, national borders, what it means to be a parent, or a daughter son, sex, dignity, true human relationships, time, poverty, power, identity And none of them are painted in black and white No, there are no real answers here And at times the reader really can t be blamed for wondering what is really happening, the narrative is so subjective And yet the uncertainties seem to come closer to approaching any semblance of real truth than bold and specific claims in black and white ever could Each of us carries his Mexico and his United States within him, a dark and bloody frontier we dare to cross only at night Then the roving consciousness that was the seal and the fascination of his imagination, if not his genius, asked the old gringo Did you know she has been creating you just as you were creating her Did you know, old man, that she had created a plan for living for you Did you know we are all the object of another s imagination You might think this turns out to be the most depressing story in the world, but somehow, it s not Somehow, by the end of it, I became convinced that true and deep human interaction is indeed possible, and it is the stuff that in the end defines our lives So I guess when I said there were no real answers, I may have been wrong It s just that the answers are very gray And of course, subjective Loneliness is an absence of time I m glad I marked some of my time with this book Read in Spanish, the English translation being The Old Gringo.A bit of historical background might be useful here Ambrose Bierce 1842 1914 was a well known American journalist, essayist, and editorial writer who traveled to Mexico in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution He was rud to have joined the rebel forces of Pancho Villa and was never heard from again Countless theories of his ultimate fate have been propounded over that past century Carlos Fuentes used Bierce s character never n Read in Spanish, the English translation being The Old Gringo.A bit of historical background might be useful here Ambrose Bierce 1842 1914 was a well known American journalist, essayist, and editorial writer who traveled to Mexico in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution He was rud to have joined the rebel forces of Pancho Villa and was never heard from again Countless theories of his ultimate fate have been propounded over that past century Carlos Fuentes used Bierce s character never named, always called only gringo viejo as the centerpiece of his novel.The story has three main characters One is the old gringo, a veteran of the American Civil War, journalist for the Hearst newspaper chain, father of two sons both of whom committed suicide, who has come to Mexico to die, convinced that to die in a war is preferable to dying from anythingtrivial or from suicide The second is Tomas Arroyo, the self appointed general of a splinter group of Pancho Villa s army, a autocratic and self aggrandizing mestizo who is the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and Senor Miranda, the owner now fled with his family of the ranch where most of the novel s action takes place The third is Harriet Winslow, a young white American woman who has come to tutor the Miranda children, only to find them gone She is from a privileged Washington DC family, but her father, a military officer, has disappeared in Cuba during the Spanish American War, he himself having been an enigmatic figure.Fuentes uses these three individuals to explore a number of themes, reflecting and refracting their personalities and interpersonal relationships through the image and metaphor of mirrors The relationship of each character to each of the others continually evolves, and issues of nationality, politics, imperialism, sexuality, mortality, love, justice, and social class are all probed Fuentes use of language is adroit and his perspectives psychologically perceptive The resolution and often non resolution of issues and relationships is as creative and thought provoking as it is ambiguous and startling I found the novel fascinating.Let me make a suggestion for those reading literature in other than their own primary language I have a modest but evolving and improving facility in several languages, and I have found it most satisfactory to download a foreign language work to my e book reader in my case a Kindle with dictionary and translator apps Being able just to touch a word, phrase, or sentence that is unfamiliar or confusing and immediately having a translation available enables one to avoid the cumbersomeness of trying to hold a book open with one hand and leaf through a dictionary with another The reading process is far easier andenjoyable this way And I have found that my reading ability improves rapidly and painlessly using this approach Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes represents a masterful fusion between an author s own identity that of a fellow writer, Ambrose Bierce, a character whose identity we don t learn until late in the story but an abiding presence throughout the novel I suspect that there are multiple reasons to dislike the book because it portrays a chapter of Mexican history that few are familiar with, is steeped in a kind of visceral violence misogyny that many would be offended by and lastly, the tale is not to Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes represents a masterful fusion between an author s own identity that of a fellow writer, Ambrose Bierce, a character whose identity we don t learn until late in the story but an abiding presence throughout the novel I suspect that there are multiple reasons to dislike the book because it portrays a chapter of Mexican history that few are familiar with, is steeped in a kind of visceral violence misogyny that many would be offended by and lastly, the tale is not told in a linear fashion that would make it easier to digest To be sure, while it is a fairly brief book, Old Gringo takes a consistent amount of care to unravel There are several distinct metaphors images that serve to define the Fuentes novel, one being the concept of frontiers the other the images cast by mirrors The book begins by telling us that the old gringo had crossed to the South Mexico because he did not have any frontiers left to cross in his own country The gringo has fought in the American Civil War when quite young now, much older, he has purposefully sought out the Mexican Revolutionary War as a place to die because to be a gringo in Mexico is euthanasia The gringo is a voluntary fugitive who crosses the border into the violent uncertainty of Mexico with minimal baggage but among his personal effects is a copy of Cervantes Don Quixote 2 other books by an American author The gringo declares that each of us carries his own frontier inside The old gringo expresses a determination to remain in charge of his own destiny, not to die old unattended but to go out in a blaze of glory I will always be young because I dare to be young But with that personal manifesto, he also admits to feeling like an albino monster in a land that the sun has reserved for its favored In time, he meets up with a renegade group of soldiers led by Tomas Arroyo, one of whose soldiers quickly realizes that the old gringo has come to Mexico to die, with another soldier commenting, yes, but with honor As it turns out, dying will not be quite so easily accomplished, even in the midst of battles against federal troops even though the gringo obviously seems an easy target but manages to take on a phantom like nature, impressing Arroyo his Mexican troops.Meanwhile, Tomas Arroyo is in the midst of a different sort of quest, an illiterate bastard child of a wealthy man who owns a large hacienda but who flees with his family when he senses a large scale insurrection A woman enters the scene, a well born but now impoverished American who has decided to throw caution to the wind by fleeing her urban life, intending to become a governess to the affluent family that has just fled in an ill timed manner Alas, Harriet Winslow also has lingering questions about her own father, who had enjoyed a passionate relationship with the family maid who may or may not have been slain while a soldier in Cuba, in any case being at that point unaccounted for The old gringo, Tomas Arroyo Harriet Winslow form an eclectic, very unstable bond It is said that Arroyo, who has revenged his upbringing by destroying most of the hacienda contains a whole library of words in his illiterate head Even the gringo has an apparently unsettled relationship with his late father is said to have committed fictional parenticide One might say that these 3 characters fuse while each is in search of some form of liberation from their given identities while enfolded by great uncertainty tropical heat, for as it is explained, here in Mexico, there is nothing to subdue nothing to save There is a wonderful scene when in the remnants of the ballroom of the former hacienda, peasant soldiers view themselves in a mirror for the first time, matched by other moments when a mirror is used to convey an image that is both true mysterious, with its viewer not wishing to accept it as a true facsimile Harriet looked at the old gringo exactly as he wanted to be looked at before he died He felt that her gaze completed the fragmented sequence of his imagination of Harriet Winslow that had begun in the reflections of the mirrors in the ballroom that was but a threshold of the road to dream, atomized into a thousand oneiric instants now joined again in the words that told the old gringo that Harriet would not allow a living testimony to her sensuality, that she was giving the old man the right to dream about her, but not Arroyo.This was my first encounter with Carlos Fuentes much of the prose in the Old Gringo is magical, playing on things that are at times dreamlike, occult, paranormal drawn from Mesoamerican folk traditions One guesses that Fuentes was influenced by James Joyce other modern authors aims to merge some of the fabric of his novel withdeeply rooted Mexican folk aspects The author intonesWere all these bodies lying around the square carefully stretched out there like bleached dolls simply the proof that they themselves the old man the young general, her errant father her abiding mother, little Pedro the moon faced woman were all bodies occupied by the dead, carcasses presently inhabited by people called Harriet Winslow, Tomas Arroyo, Ambrose Biercewho was a dead name printed on the covers of 2 books the old man traveled with She could not call him Cervantes, the author s name on the other book So maybe calling him Bierce was just as far fetched It was an invisible name, simply because the old man had no name it was already a dead name As dead as the corpses neatly laid out around the village square Did they ever have names Like Ambrose Bierce, Fuentes had 2 children who predeceased him perhaps there are other parallels shared by the authors Old Gringo is a figure whose identity is tied to two wars, one American the other Mexican and Fuentes is a Mexican who grew up in large part in the U.S was very keen on the war stories of Ambrose Bierce While I found the novel rather slow going occasionally, the time spent in dissecting it was time well spent ultimately an enjoyable literary experience In the end I came sort of round to the book, but lots of impediments to the liking Fuentes must have read all of Faulkner, then thought so this is how one writes.Too many convolutions, paradoxes, contradictions, enigmas, etc of primal, mythic, esoteric etc essence for me And unfortunately not Faulkner s skill at making you feel like you really are peering into the heart of something very dark and mysterious, something which you really need and want to know about but never will.I think Fuent In the end I came sort of round to the book, but lots of impediments to the liking Fuentes must have read all of Faulkner, then thought so this is how one writes.Too many convolutions, paradoxes, contradictions, enigmas, etc of primal, mythic, esoteric etc essence for me And unfortunately not Faulkner s skill at making you feel like you really are peering into the heart of something very dark and mysterious, something which you really need and want to know about but never will.I think Fuentes should have read Hemingway first.You also need some historical background Mexico, Pancho Villa and Ambrose Bierce, as the novel presents those two and that land as the major characters in the novel The book has some historical basis to it, though it is primarily about the revolutionary collision of the Mexican social classes with a good dose of American intervention which we still doing.The book also seemed rather clich d in its presentation of the Wild West Wild Mexico, that is and the full complement Clint Eastwood heroes, villains and right hand men.I guess in the end, the book s main draw is that it keeps you going, though not overly enthusiastically But maybe if you re Mexican or interested in Mexico, then this might seem a much better book Old Gringo was agony for me to read Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him He was pretty much as I d expected An achingly handsome eighty year old man who writes poetic novels And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts This may work for his male readers This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa s generals and even Ambrose Bierce But it did not Old Gringo was agony for me to read Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him He was pretty much as I d expected An achingly handsome eighty year old man who writes poetic novels And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts This may work for his male readers This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa s generals and even Ambrose Bierce But it did not work for me when it came to reading the parts of the story told from the point of view of Harriet Winslow, a starting to age American school marm who takes up with Bierce and the Villa general Agony to read I d planned to read Old Gringo, the book I d bought at the reading, and then watch the video I fought my way to the end of the novel, loathing every page And then went hopefully to the video When I took the DVD from its envelope, I discovered the DVD had been snapped in half Could it be that the video was as horrifying as the novel and the previous viewer lost it *READ DOWNLOAD ↳ Gringo viejo ⇶ Durante los a os de intensa lucha revolucionaria en M xico, un viejo escritor norteamericano cruza la frontera sur de su pa s para buscar un destino, acaso mortal, en el torbellino de la historia Es un hombre de amarga desesperaci n y de un escepticismo insaciable sabe de la corrupci n y de la tristeza, de la esterilidad y de las vanidades de los negocios humanos Su meta es encontrarse en M xico con Pancho Villa, el legendario guerrillero La vida tomar , para este hombre atormentado y complejo, de severos rasgos tr gicos, otros rumbos inesperados, sin embargo Gringo viejo, novela de encuentros y desencuentros personales y nacionales , recoge las huellas posibles de un destino norteamericano significativo y conmovedor despliega en el espacio de sus p ginas la cifra de un pu ado de figuras sintom ticas en ellas deslumbra a veces la pasi n que todo lo salva a veces, las oscuras razones de la fuerza y de la tierra An utter waste of my time, except for one passage perhaps this man had been able to do what no one was supposed to he had come home again, he was trying to relive one of the oldest myths of mankind, the return to the lar, the earth, the warm home of our origins.That cannot be done, she told herself, and not only because very likely the place won t be there any Even if it were, though, nothing could ever be the same people age, things break down, feelings change You can never go home An utter waste of my time, except for one passage perhaps this man had been able to do what no one was supposed to he had come home again, he was trying to relive one of the oldest myths of mankind, the return to the lar, the earth, the warm home of our origins.That cannot be done, she told herself, and not only because very likely the place won t be there any Even if it were, though, nothing could ever be the same people age, things break down, feelings change You can never go home again, even to the same place and the same people, if by chance both have remained, not the same, but simply there, in their essence She realized that the English language could only conjugate one kind of being to be Home is a memory The only true memory for memory is our home And thus the only true desire of our hearts the burning quest for our tiny, insecure paradises, buried deep within our hearts I m not much of a history reader, so I wasn t sure about reading this book for a challenge but thought I d bite the bullet I was very surprised that I liked it as much as I did Perhaps that s because, in part, I like the Mexican culture and we ve visit Mexico to vacation the last 2 years and are going again this year I found it interesting how Fuentes used the United States and Mexico as a comparison to explore people s emotions and how opposite conflicting they can be in an individual I tho I m not much of a history reader, so I wasn t sure about reading this book for a challenge but thought I d bite the bullet I was very surprised that I liked it as much as I did Perhaps that s because, in part, I like the Mexican culture and we ve visit Mexico to vacation the last 2 years and are going again this year I found it interesting how Fuentes used the United States and Mexico as a comparison to explore people s emotions and how opposite conflicting they can be in an individual I thought perhaps that was overdone At least for me it got to be a bit much.I think I might have enjoyed itif I hadhistorical background on Mexico The Mexicans I know are Mexican Americans, and I love what I know about their culture and how they have so many traditions and are very family oriented The book goes into the Mexican Revolution, which I knew little to none about and wasn t sure if it was fictional or factual or perhaps both